Pwyllgor Newid Hinsawdd, yr Amgylchedd a Seilwaith
Climate Change, Environment, and Infrastructure Committee24/05/2023
Aelodau'r Pwyllgor a oedd yn bresennol
Committee Members in Attendance
|Delyth Jewell AS|
|Heledd Fychan AS||Dirprwyo ar ran Llyr Gruffydd|
|Substitute for Llyr Gruffydd|
|Huw Irranca-Davies AS|
|Janet Finch-Saunders AS|
|Jenny Rathbone AS|
|Joyce Watson AS|
Y rhai eraill a oedd yn bresennol
Others in Attendance
|Helen Rowley||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Julie James AS||Y Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd|
|Minister for Climate Change|
|Olwen Spiller||Llywodraeth Cymru|
|Roger Herbert||Llywodraeth Cymru|
Swyddogion y Senedd a oedd yn bresennol
Senedd Officials in Attendance
|Andrea Storer||Dirprwy Glerc|
|Marc Wyn Jones||Clerc|
|Stephen Davies||Cynghorydd Cyfreithiol|
Cofnodir y trafodion yn yr iaith y llefarwyd hwy ynddi yn y pwyllgor. Yn ogystal, cynhwysir trawsgrifiad o’r cyfieithu ar y pryd. Lle mae cyfranwyr wedi darparu cywiriadau i’w tystiolaeth, nodir y rheini yn y trawsgrifiad.
The proceedings are reported in the language in which they were spoken in the committee. In addition, a transcription of the simultaneous interpretation is included. Where contributors have supplied corrections to their evidence, these are noted in the transcript.
Cyfarfu’r pwyllgor yn y Senedd a thrwy gynhadledd fideo.
Dechreuodd y cyfarfod am 09:30.
The committee met in the Senedd and by video-conference.
The meeting began at 09:30.
Bore da. Nid yw'r Cadeirydd yn gallu bod yn bresennol am weddill y tymor hwn. Felly, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.22, galwaf am enwebiadau ar gyfer Cadeirydd dros dro tan ddiwedd y tymor.
Good morning. The Chair is unable to attend the meeting until the end of this term. Therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.22, I call for nominations for a temporary Chair until the end of term.
Nid oedd cyfieithiad ar y pryd ar gael ar gyfer y cyfraniad a ganlyn. Felly, darparwyd cyfieithiad.
No simultaneous interpretation was available for the following contribution. Therefore, a translation has been provided.
Diolch. Gan nad oes unrhyw enwebiadau eraill, rydw i'n datgan mai Heledd Fychan sydd wedi'i phenodi'n Gadeirydd dros dro, ac rydw i'n galw arni i gymryd sedd y Cadeirydd tan ddiwedd tymor yr haf.
Thank you. As there are no other nominations, I declare that Heledd Fychan is appointed interim Chair, and I invite her to take the Chair's seat until the end of the summer term.
Penodwyd Heledd Fychan yn Gadeirydd dros dro.
Heledd Fychan was appointed temporary Chair.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Mae yna broblem efo'r cyfieithu.
Thank you very much. There's a problem with the interpretation.
There's a problem with the translation. Can we check that before we start? But thank you for the nomination as Chair.
Gawn ni tsiecio os ydy'r cyfieithu'n gweithio?
Can we check if the interpretation is working?
It's working now.
Gwych, mae'r cyfieithu’n gweithio.
Excellent, the interpretation is working.
Nid oedd cyfieithiad ar y pryd ar gael ar gyfer y cyfraniad a ganlyn. Felly, darparwyd cyfieithiad.
No simultaneous interpretation was available for the following contribution. Therefore, a translation has been provided.
Gaf i groesawu Aelodau i'r cyfarfod? Fel nodwyd eisoes, cafwyd ymddiheuriadau gan Llyr Gruffydd.
Can I welcome Members to the meeting? As already noted, apologies have been received from Llyr Gruffydd.
Mine's not working now.
Mae yna broblem yn parhau efo'r cyfieithu.
There is still a problem with the interpretation.
Can we please check the translation just to make sure?
I think we have got one faulty set.
It's not working for you either.
Gaf i awgrymu ein bod ni'n cymryd siebiant byr?
Can I suggest that we take a short break?
If we could take a short break, and we'll sort out the technical difficulties, because it's essential we have the translation working. So, we'll take a short break now, and we'll resume as quickly as possible.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 09:31 a 09:32.
The meeting adjourned between 09:31 and 09:32.
Croeso’n ôl i'r pwyllgor, a chroeso i chi, Aelodau. Fel roeddwn i'n sôn, mi gafwyd ymddiheuriadau gan Llyr Gruffydd. Mae'r cyfarfod hwn yn cael ei gynnal mewn fformat hybrid, ond mae pawb yn bresennol. Heddiw, rydym ni'n disgwyl tystion ac Aelodau, ac ar wahân i addasiadau yn ymwneud â chynnal trafodion mewn fformat hybrid, mae'r holl ofynion eraill o dan y Rheolau Sefydlog yn aros yn eu lle. Bydd yr eitemau cyhoeddus yn y cyfarfod hwn yn cael eu darlledu’n fyw ar Senedd.tv, a bydd Cofnod y Trafodion yn cael ei gyhoeddi yn ôl yr arfer. Mae'r cyfarfod yn ddwyieithog ac mae'r cyfieithu ar y pryd, rydym ni wedi cadarnhau, yn gweithio, o’r Gymraeg i'r Saesneg. Os oes yna unrhyw broblem, gadewch imi wybod ar unwaith fel Cadeirydd. Mi wnawn ni sicrhau bod yr offer yn gweithio. Gaf i ofyn i ddechrau, a oes yna unrhyw fuddiannau gan Aelodau i'w datgan, os gwelwch yn dda? Huw.
Welcome back to the committee, and welcome to Members. As I've already mentioned, there have been apologies from Llyr Gruffydd. This is a hybrid meeting, but everyone is present here. Today, we're expecting witnesses and Members, and aside from adaptations relating to conducting proceedings in a hybrid format, all other Standing Orders requirements remain in place. The public items in this meeting will be broadcast live on Senedd.tv, and there will be a Record of Proceedings published as usual. It is a bilingual meeting and simultaneous translation, as we have confirmed, is working, from Welsh to English. If there are any problems, then please let me know immediately as Chair, and we will ensure that we have all the equipment working properly. Are there any declarations of interests before we start? Huw.
Mae'n ddrwg gen i. Simply the normal declaration in terms of the cross-party groups of air quality and active travel, which I chair, but I think Members of the committee are also members of those groups as well.
As it's my first time as Chair of the committee, I should declare that I'm also a member of those cross-party groups and a clean air champion of the Senedd. Diolch yn fawr iawn.
Heddiw byddwn yn cynnal ein hail sesiwn gyda'r Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd ar Fil yr Amgylchedd (Ansawdd Aer a Seinweddau) (Cymru), a fydd yn cwblhau’r gwaith craffu yng Nghyfnod 1. Bydd y sesiwn dystiolaeth y bore yma mewn dwy ran i ganiatáu egwyl fer am 10:30. Gaf i eich croesawu chi, os gwelwch yn dda, Weinidog i'r pwyllgor y bore yma? A gaf i ofyn ichi, os gwelwch chi’n dda, gyflwyno’r swyddogion sydd gyda chi ar gyfer y record?
Today we will be holding our second session with the Minister for Climate Change on the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill, and we will be completing the work on Stage 1. Today we'll have two parts for our session for a short break at 10:30. I'd like to welcome you, Minister, to the session today. Please, introduce your officers who are with you today for the record.
Diolch, Cadeirydd. I'll ask my officials to introduce themselves. I'm Julie James. I'm the Minister for Climate Change with responsibility for taking this Bill through the Senedd.
I'm Olwen Spiller. I'm deputy head of the environmental protection division at the Welsh Government.
I'm Helen Rowley. I'm from Welsh Government legal services.
Roger Herbert. Air quality monitoring, evidence and assessment in the environmental protection division.
Gwych. Diolch yn fawr iawn ichi, a chroeso cynnes ichi i gyd. Gaf i ofyn y cwestiwn cyntaf, felly, Weinidog? A ydych chi’n fodlon bod y Bil yn rhoi’r un pwyslais ar fynd i'r afael ag effeithiau llygredd aer ar yr amgylchedd ag ydy o ar iechyd cyhoeddus?
Excellent. Thank you very much, and welcome to you all. Could I ask the first question, Minister? Are you satisfied that the Bill gives the same emphasis on tackling noise—? [Translation should read: Are you satisfied that the Bill places the same emphasis on tackling the effects of air pollution on the environment as it does on public health?]
The translation has gone weird for a minute.
Shall I try again with the translation?
One more go.
Nid oedd cyfieithiad ar y pryd ar gael ar gyfer y cyfraniad a ganlyn. Felly, darparwyd cyfieithiad.
No simultaneous interpretation was available for the following contribution. Therefore, a translation has been provided.
Ydych chi’n fodlon bod y Bil yn rhoi'r un pwyslais ar fynd i'r afael ag effeithiau llygredd aer—? Na. Bydd rhaid i fi gael copi Saesneg o'r cwestiynau, os ydy hynny'n iawn, oherwydd dwi ddim yn wych ar gyfieithu ar y pryd.
Are you satisfied that the Bill places equal emphasis on addressing the effects of air pollution—? No. I'll have to get an English copy of the questions, if that's okay, because I'm not great at simultaneous interpretation.
Are you satisfied that the Bill affords equal weight to addressing both the environmental and public health impacts of air pollution?
Yes. But, it's very important, I think, to understand that the Bill is not intended to be a be-all and end-all for everything to do with clean air. This is part of a suite of measures that we have in place, and it fills in a particular slot in that suite of measures. So, it's not intended to be an all-encompassing, everything-in Bill. So, we're very happy that this plays its proper part in the suite of measures that we have to make sure that we continue to improve air quality across Wales in accordance with all the very best guidelines, and that we will have the powers, because of this Bill, to continue to do that. So, I'm answering a slightly different question because it's really important to always remember that this is not a stand-alone Bill in that sense; it's part of a suite of measures.
Thank you. If I may follow up with that, then, what's your response to the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health and Wales Environment Link, who suggested that the Bill is a missed opportunity to address air pollution from agriculture?
So, it's not—. As I say, it's not intended to be an all-encompassing Bill; it's intended to give us duties and powers to do particular things in the clean air air quality space—the soundscape space as well, of course, which is new—and it sits inside a whole suite of other things. We have a large number of duties, which various officials can take us through, to produce plans; there are targets already in place at UK level, and this Bill is enhancing some of the particular powers of the Senedd. So, it was never intended to be a complete catch-all, and, therefore, obviously, it isn't a complete catch-all. So, in that sense, they're right.
Diolch. Can I bring in Huw?
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Just on that, before I turn to a couple of other matters on the levels of ambition within the Bill—and by the way, some of the evidence we've heard does reflect the fact that we've got a Minister in place who has real ambition on this—the question is: how much do we put on the face of the Bill, and how much do we leave? And there is something of a—sorry, I don't want to put words in your mouth—framework nature about this, and then lots of detail will follow, but on the ammonia issue, we have heard compelling evidence that this is an obvious one to actually put on the face of the Bill to give you the ability to deal with this when you've got all the information in front. It's such a compelling, obvious one to put on an air quality Bill. Are you open to that argument?
Yes. I'm not averse to having a look at the balance between powers and duties, but I think you have to sort of see it in the full landscape. So, what we're doing in this Bill is we're putting a duty on us to look at targets for PM2.5. PM2.5—I'm no technical expert, I should say, Cadeirydd, so officials will come in as necessary—but, as I understand it, PM2.5 is about particulates; particulates are an enormous range of chemicals, of all sorts of matter, debris, chemicals in the air, and we want to be under a duty to do that because that is the one that most people are very, very concerned about.
We have already got in place a framework of targets for a number of other things. What this Bill does is give us the power to collect data and to have the right kind of information for being able to set stretching, achievable targets into the future. Now, if the committee feels very strongly that we should be under a duty to consider specific targets for other chemicals, we're very happy to look at that. Bear in mind, though, that we already have targets for a lot of them. So, I suppose the wording will be important. So, I don't know if Members remember the Environmental Protection (Single-use Plastic Products) (Wales) Bill, but we ended up with, 'The Government is under a duty to consider adding in a number of things to the single-use plastic ban'. A very similar mechanism we would be very happy to consider for this, but this Bill is very much about the fact that we don't have the data necessary, or the collection methodology necessary, to be able to look at those targets. So, I'm very happy to look at the balance of whether we're under a duty or we have the power. And the other thing is, the Government would need to consider—. Let me just do a slight cartoon of what I'm trying to say: target setting can go up as well as down, like one of those financial things, your investment can go up as well as down. So, if we have a target, if we have a duty to set a target, and the target is set and it's at the right level, and the Government has a duty to set a target, what's it going to do?
Yes, indeed. We can come to the detail of the targets, but it's actually—
So, a duty to consider whether a target needs to be set for something is probably a more practical way of looking at what we're doing, and that's why we ended up with a single-use plastics Bill—for exactly the same reason.
I welcome that. I welcome the response there, because it gives us some scope, as a committee, to look at what we could put forward in our discussions. But, certainly, when you have the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, Natural Resources Wales, Wales Environment Link, and others, relating to the overwhelming evidence that agricultural activity plays a significant role in the quality of air we breathe and biodiversity, it just screams at us, 'Well, why wouldn't we put some reference to this?'
Anyway, let me turn to another area that we've had compelling and unanimous evidence that should feature within this, and features, according to those who've given evidence, actually within the scope and remit as well as the primary purposes of this Bill, which is finishing the unfinished work on active travel. So, duties on public bodies, et cetera. I'm just wondering where you are at the moment on this, where your legal advice is internally on this, if you've had any, if you've sought any, because every evidence session we've had has been unanimous in saying, 'This should—'. It wouldn't make it a Christmas tree Bill; it will actually do what the Bill is trying to do and finish off those bits on active travel.
So, our advice—and I'm more than happy to have an exchange with the committee on this, and probably will need to do it in writing after the evidence session too—but my advice is that we need to be—. I'm very happy to look at it, I'm very happy to consider whether strengthening some active travel provisions will assist with air quality, but we have to be very careful that we're not narrowing the scope of the Bill by doing it. I know the intention is to broaden it, but we have to be really careful that, by putting indicative things into a general section, we're not somehow narrowing the scope, which would be an unintended consequence, I absolutely agree. You also have to be sure that—. So, the parts of active travel you'd be talking about in this Bill would be for air quality only, and so you have to be sure you don't narrow the active travel Bill itself inadvertently by doing that. Because active travel is about a lot more than just air quality, although, obviously, it has an air-quality element to it, but it also has a number of other elements—I preach to the converted here, I know you all know that. So, I'm not averse to it, Huw, but I think we have to be really careful to get the technicalities of it right, so that, in trying to do what I know you're trying to do, we don't inadvertently either narrow this Bill or narrow the active travel Bill. So, I think, probably, if the committee wants to write to me, setting out what you had in mind, and then we can properly respond with the technical considerations of why we think that there might be some unintended consequences. It may well be that, together, we can come to an agreed amendment that the committee Chair or somebody else might want to move, that we would be able to support.
I'm not in a position now to argue the intricate detail of exactly what an amendment might look like, but our advice is that, to keep it in scope, it has to be specifically about air quality and nothing else, and you then have to be very careful that you're not conducting a narrowing exercise inadvertently; I understand it would be inadvertent. But I'm more than happy to have that conversation with the committee, and I think, probably, an exchange between our various lawyers and so on about how that might look is very good, and if we can come to an agreed amendment, then I'm more than happy to do it. There's no principled objection to it.
Thank you. That's very welcome, Minister. I appreciate it. I apologise, Huw, can I just bring in Janet quickly? She's indicated.
Good morning, Minister. Just back to the ammonia issue, you say that there are targets already in place and then you mention a lack of data. Am I correct to assume, then, that there's no actual monitoring in terms of data going on, as regards the levels of ammonia at the moment?
I'm going to have to ask one of the officials to come in on that. Roger, is that you?
I think there are various stations that monitor levels of ammonia, but there aren't many of them across Wales. And then, obviously, assessments are done on the condition of habitats and things that ammonia will impact on.
So, in the areas where we all know are quite rife for where there's probably most likely to be lots of ammonia in terms of this issue, what kind of monitoring is taking place currently?
So I think, from memory—I could be wrong—there are about four monitoring stations across Wales that monitor concentrations. There are other methods that measure deposition—so, the fallout onto the plants and soil of ammonia. And those are compared against levels protective of sensitive habitat types.
And are they high at the moment?
That's also supplemented by modelling, I should say, as well, across the whole of Wales.
Because there are concerns that we would like this added in the Bill, you see, but the argument perhaps, Minister, from your side is, 'Well, we're already monitoring them'. But how well are they being monitored is what I'm trying to—
So, they're not being. The point of this Bill is that we know that we have data gaps all over Wales—that's absolutely the point. So, we might have some data on ammonia, but it won't be sufficient and it won't be nuanced, and so on. And we know that, for example, from the nutrient management boards of our various rivers that we've got ammonia in various rivers, but it's very different, depending on the river, for all kinds of obvious reasons. So, this Bill is giving the Government the power to collect the data for Wales—because it's UK at the moment as well, lots of this—and for us to be able to nuance it. So, ammonia will be very different in different parts of Wales, depending on what's going on; it will be different in, I don't know, the Wye than it is in the Cleddau, for example—I know it is, because I know what the river nutrients look like.
So, what we're trying to do in this Bill is give ourselves the power and the ability to collect the data so that we can set realistic, stretchable targets for Wales. And I've discussed at great length with all of you, I know, the very important point that we set an achievable, stretching target. Because we know that, in the past, we've set targets that just could not be achieved, and everybody just throws their hands up, and says, 'Oh, that can't be done', and that doesn't get us anywhere. So, we also want—. The Bill gives us the power to continue to set those targets as more data becomes available, and also, frankly, as various organisations around the world change their minds about what suitable levels of various pollutants are. We know that they've changed quite substantially very recently.
So, I've got no problem—. We're going to collect the data for ammonia, and a whole range of other things—that's the whole point of the Bill. The issue, I think, Janet, isn't that we wouldn't set a target for ammonia—we absolutely will; it's whether we're under a duty to set the target and in what timescale. So, at the moment, we're giving ourselves a duty to set a target for PM2.5 only, and the power to set the targets for everything else. So, that's where we are at the moment. So, we obviously intend to use that. The issue is, if you want to put us under a duty to do that—and I absolutely understand why the committee would want to do that; I'm not arguing against it—then, again, what we want is a practical application in the Bill of how that would work.
So, I can't set a target for ammonia tomorrow—I have no idea what that should be. So, we have to have the—. So, you'll have to have—. There has to be a process by which we arrive at a target for these things, which has been consulted on and that the experts agree, and we've got the right advice, we've got the right data. So, what this Bill is doing is giving us a process to do that. So, these targets—in case anybody thinks we're going to do this in August—these targets are going to take a while, because the data is going to take a while, and there's a lag in the data. So, the monitoring stations come in, there's typically, I think Roger told me very recently, an 18-month, or so, lag in the data. [Interruption.] You can speak for yourself, Roger. So, we're not in a position to do it—that's the point. We're obviously working on soil issues and river issues as well, but this is about the air quality itself, isn't it, so it's a different component part.
Thank you, Minister. I know Jenny's keen to come in.
Yes. Because at the end of the day, this is a framework Bill, and you'll be setting the targets by regulations, once you've got all your ducks in a row. But I think all the compelling evidence we've had from our Welsh experts—so, the Chartered Institute of Environmental Health, NRW, WEL—they're all saying that there really is an expectation that we have the main causes of bad air, which is killing people, on the face of the Bill, and then, by regulations, the Government will set the targets, once you know how you're going to monitor that and ensure that it's achievable. So, it isn't just ammonia where there is clear evidence of the harm, not just to biodiversity, but also the mixing of ammonia with PM2.5, which creates a toxic cocktail for human beings as well. So, there's considerable evidence that really we need this framework Bill to be aligned with all the other commitments we've made, the Kunming-Montreal agreement that you yourself signed, and the best available evidence that all these toxic cocktails of nitrogen dioxide, sulphur dioxide, carbon monoxide, PM2.5, PM10, ozone—all these, I would argue, Minister, need to be on the face of the Bill as things that we must set targets for in due course, because that's the expectation that the air quality and soundscapes Bill is setting. People want to ensure that the Government is mindful that people are dying as a result of this bad air.
I don't have any problem with any of that, Jenny, other than we're looking for the Bill to set up a practical set of things for us to do it. So, if the committee wants to recommend that the Government should put itself under a duty to consider targets for a whole range of things, if that's what you want to recommend, that's great. I'm happy to look at that. But there are three things I want to say about that. Don't limit it. So, we want to have the ability to add in other things. I'm just going to make it up: if an igglyblog particle is discovered next year—
—that's very harmful—I just made it up—that nobody has ever heard of before, and we didn't know about it, and now we know it exists because a clever scientist has found it, we don't want to not be able to deal with that because the Bill is narrowed in. So, we want the ability to be able to deal with changes and discoveries and changes in the World Health Organization or other organisations. I've already discussed with several committees why we won't want to put the World Health Organization on the face of the Bill. We know from past experience that organisations change in terms of who thinks somebody's got the last word. But, clearly, we want to be under a duty to take the best evidence, which is—. I'm very happy to be under a duty to take the best evidence.
So, Jenny, if you want to suggest an amendment to the Bill that puts a duty on the Government to consider setting targets for a list of things, but also has the ability to add in targets—. And then can I also say that you need to be careful that you're not putting us under a duty to set a new target all the time? Because you might have a target of—. I have to make these things up, right, but, if you have a target of 10 in 100 particles or something, you don't want us to be under a duty to set a new one next year, because 10 might still be the relevant target. So, what you want us to be under is a duty to consider whether the target is the right target, not artificially to have to change the target. I know that's obvious, but Bills sometimes end up with that kind of nonsense in them, so you have to put it up to 11 or down to nine, or some nonsense.
So, what we want is a practical Bill that sets out a range of interventions in our air quality that we all want to see happen and the Government's under a duty to consider, and under a duty to take the right evidence and collect the data for, and then have a cycle that, as I say—. This is what I meant about that this isn't the only Bill. We're already under a duty then to report on a number of things, and various officials can tell you all about the structure of that, so that, when we report them, and we've set the targets, we're reporting them against the overarching structure, and then you get a much better picture across the piece.
So, that's where we are. So, that's where we are with this, and I am more than happy to discuss with the committee—I'm sure you'll write back to me after this evidence session—about exactly how we might do that, and to make sure that all the lawyers are happy that the amendments suggested, if that's what you're going to do, actually do what we're trying to do on the face of the Bill.
And then just to finish the piece—sorry, I know I'm going on too long for this—that the regulations that then set the targets are set correctly, with the right procedure, so that we have the right evidence base for those. And then the last thing I would say—and I mean no disrespect in this—is that we don't artificially put things like superaffirmative procedures on a regulation that might then be so technical that, frankly, I don't even know what I'm reading out loud when I'm doing it, never mind have a realistic understanding. So, that's a very—. You might end up with a very, very technical regulation, full of chemical notation and all the rest of it. So, we have to get that right, don't we? It's for the Senedd to have a good say in the policy and the mechanism, but the technical merits of the actual target—I very much doubt that we'll have somebody with the expertise to do that. I certainly wouldn't have it.
So, that's kind of where we're trying to get to with the Bill, but I'm more than happy for the committee to help us get there.
In terms of the evidence that is available at the moment to protect our most vulnerable citizens, at the moment, on the face of the Bill, you've got the need to set a target for PM2.5. Could you explain why it's only possible to set a target for 2.5 and whether you can commit to—? Could you explain the process by which, were we to add other pollutants, at what point—? What's the process by which you'd then be confident about setting targets for other pollutants?
So, what we want to be able to do is have the correct amount of data in place that allows us to understand what we're really looking at. I know that ammonia is very harmful; what I don't know is whether the level of ammonia right here is the same as it is in Bangor, or whether a universal target across Wales might make it better in one place, might make it worse in another place. So, we have to have a very careful look at properly nuanced targets that actually are working to bring it down, and we know that that's not always how it's worked in the past. So, we need to have the correct set of social, environmental, health, et cetera factors coming out of the data for us to be able to set that target.
It also has to be achievable. There's absolutely no point in setting a target that we cannot get to without doing things that nobody in their right mind is going to do.
It's stretching, but achievable. Ambitious, but achievable. Because we know, from lots of other examples in politics, that setting a target that can't be achievable just ends up with nothing happening at all. So, there's no point in us setting an air quality target that means we have to shut down every motorway in Wales. That's not going to happen, and it won't be achievable. What we have to do is have a set of measures in place that lower it down towards a target, over time, with a series of interventions that get us to where we want to be. It's really important to do it like that, because, as I say, otherwise everybody just goes, 'Oh, I can't do that.'
We don't have the data. We know that those chemicals are harmful; nobody's arguing that. What we don't have is the data that tells us at what level we should set it to achieve what I've just said. We just don't have that data. So, we need to be able to bring the regulations forward to set those targets when we have the data. We would consult on that. We would have technical expertise on that. We would be able to publish the data in advance, all of the various groups giving you evidence would be able to see the data, would have an input into the targets, and then, eventually, the regulations would come forward and set that target and a way to go. We're not going to just pluck a figure out of the air and shove it in a regulation.
So, the Bill needs to set out how to do that, it needs to set out how the Government will bring its regulations forward and what procedure it would use and all the rest of it in order to do that. So, coming back to where we started, if you want to list the things that we should look at, that's great—'consider setting a target for', I would suggest, but we'll have that conversation about the exact wording. Then the process for how we do that will be really important as well—so, how do we collect the data. So, we propose to roll out a whole series of monitoring stations across Wales, far more than we have at the moment, work with our local authorities to pick up where they're monitoring. There's plenty in my constituency where we're monitoring air quality already. We'll work with the UK Government—I don't know if we're going to come on to that in the committee, but there are some issues with retained EU law happening, but we work with the UK Government, because there's a UK overarching target that we feed into as well. So, this is part of a landscape, if you like, that comes together. I don't want to load this Bill with stuff that we've already got to do elsewhere, either.
But you will accept that putting a spotlight on an issue does cause stakeholders to address the matter, as has happened in Newport Road, where electric buses have hugely improved things for my constituents. So, I just wondered whether, Minister, you've considered developing interim targets for pollutants to enable us to highlight issues that stakeholders need to address, even where you aren't in a position to set a definitive target, because I believe this is the approach that's been taken in England.
So, again, I'll ask—I don't know which one of you it is. But we already have existing targets, so we're not starting from zero. The issue is: do we need more interim targets than the existing ones? Will we divert work from the actual targets into trying to set the interim targets? Off the back of what exactly, I don't know, if we haven't got the data. So, there are considerations there. But also the committee really does need to take account of the fact that there are existing targets. They’re not especially effective targets, but they do exist and we feed into them. Is that you, Roger, sorry?
May we hear from your official, then?
Yes, sure. So, when setting and reviewing targets under the framework, the Bill requires Welsh Ministers to seek advice from relevant experts and have regard to scientific knowledge. There’s a range of existing types of target, as we’ve heard, which depend on the nature of pollutant, and the need for any interim target, the form it should take, and when it should apply, would be expected to form part of this initial advice. We also have—. Sorry, I should say interim targets could be statutory or non-statutory, depending on the actual target in question that you’re trying to set and what its purpose is, to demonstrate a trajectory towards longer term targets. So, we have existing targets, we have existing powers if we want to set statutory targets too, and those powers are the same if we want to set any short-term air quality target currently.
So, I think—. I wonder, Chair, whether it would be useful—that’s what I was whispering to Olwen about—if we provide the committee with a set of information about what the current duties look like and how we currently do that, so you can see what the sort of landscape we’re moving this off from is. I think that’s probably helpful.
That would be helpful.
I think that would be extremely useful, so that we can see the direction of travel, because the experts are saying, ‘Well, x, y and z target are not being met at the moment‘, and that is why there’s so much anxiety, that this Bill is an opportunity to give teeth to the mission to clean up our air, but we need to ensure that the Government is proceeding at pace.
Absolutely, Jenny. So, I make the offer that we will write to the committee, setting out where the monitoring stations are, what we currently know—make it obvious what we don’t know, which is what the Bill is about—and then what we could currently do, and why we want the new powers, so it’s a little bit more available.
I’m going to accept that offer and say, ‘Yes, please', and thank you, Minister. I know, before I bring Janet in, Huw just wanted to come in very quickly. Thank you.
A really short supplementary on that. Is there any way practically that you can also scope out in your current mind’s view how you are then going to introduce these other targets in other areas, the ones that you’ve said, ‘Well, we’re not quite ready'? Some idea of, ‘Here’s where we currently are; here are the powers that we have. Now, on ammonia, on this, on that and the other, we anticipate they will come online here, here and so on.’ Is that too onerous a task? Would you be able to scope something out?
So, one of the things we’ve been looking at is how we will roll out the data collection, isn’t it? And exactly where that might be and how the data stream will then come back in to us, and the analysis and so on. So, I think—. And Olwen, you come in, but I think we’re talking 18 months, two years minimum for that. And three years for—
And you must have an idea already, then—
It's three years, isn't it, for the—?
—on the basis of that data coming in, how you would then rectify it in terms of either statutory targets, regulations—existing ones—for each one, for each item.
Yes. I’d really love to get all these set before the end of this Senedd term. I’ve said this in a couple of the committees already. Whether we can or not—you know, we need to get the data in place. One of the things we have to do is—. So, if we’re not meeting targets already, lowering the targets isn’t going to do anything, is it? It’s just going to be another set of targets we don’t meet. So, we have to do a bit of analysis of the current targets, why aren’t we meeting them, how do we know we’re not meeting them, what’s going on with that, and then, when we set the targets, what would be the measures that go alongside those targets that we think would actually get us to lowering the targets. So, there’s no point in setting a target if—
And you’ve done that sort of mapping already.
We’ll be doing that at the same time as collecting the data, so there’s a whole shed load of work to do—technical term—to go alongside this for how do you reduce the air pollutants in accordance with the targets. So, I’m sure we’ll come on to the road traffic schemes and all the rest of it that we currently have in place trying to do exactly that. So, the teams will be working on where the data needs to be collected from, how we roll it out, where the most cost-effective use of the monitoring stations will be, all that sort of stuff. Olwen, do you want to add anything to that?
I’ll pass on to Roger in a second, but what I would like to say is what you we can provide you with is a bit of a narrative about the package of work we’re doing to look at all the targets, the timescales associated with that and what is involved, like the Minister has just said, as well. And I think, if you need further data from that, you can just come back to us at that point, but we'll try to give you as much information as practically possible.
Could I then just, Chair, in that, dispose of the other thing that was on my mind, which was the parallel piece of work that you've been doing on domestic burning? A lot of people have been saying, 'Why doesn't it feature in this Bill?' You may have some other ideas about how you're going to deal with that with existing regulation. Yes, you're nodding—tell me you're going to deal with that in other existing legislation.
So, we do have existing legislation available to look at that. But once we then set out the next steps on how we do it and we take views on that, we'll look at the most appropriate vehicle at that time, but we would be transparent on how we were doing that as well. There's a bit of an initial consultation going on with stakeholders about the next steps for that work—
—and then we're hoping to publish the summary of responses, which will include how we're going to go forward, this summer.
Please put that in writing as well.
Can I also say though on that, Huw, that there's a very big education piece on that?
So, in previous committees when we've had this discussion, it's been obvious to me that even members of the committee weren't aware, for example, that burning wet wood puts particulate matter into the atmosphere, whereas kiln-dried or very dry wood doesn't. And it was quite clear that members of the committee didn't even know that, so, if members of the committee don't know that, you can be pretty sure that it isn't a widespread piece of knowledge. So, we need to do a big education piece about, if you are burning wood or—
Including with sellers as well as—
Well, right across the whole of Wales.
And even people who harvest their own.
If you have an open fire or a log burner, or whatever it is that you use to supplement your heating—and goodness knows with the price of energy, a lot of people are doing that—then you need to understand what the different behaviours in doing that actually do to the air around your own house and your own—. There's a big education piece there as well as the draconic, 'Don't do it at all' type of things, which we're reluctant, in a cost-of-living crisis, to suddenly impose. If you forced retrofitting on people, for example, you're talking about a serious amount of money to do some of that for some of the equipment that people have in their homes. So, a lot of what we'll be bringing forward is about an education, public awareness piece of what particular behaviours actually result in, which is not widely known in my view.
No. Thank you, Minister. If I can bring Janet in here.
Thank you. It's not just wet wood, it's green wood as well that you shouldn't be burning. Anyway, we've waited a long time for this Bill to come forward, so why doesn't the Bill make provision for setting short-term targets for pollutants other than PM2.5, and will you commit to revisiting this aspect of the Bill? We want some short-term targets, because we've waited so long for this. Is that practical or not?
So, that's the same conversation, Janet, really. It's about where we are with existing targets: whether they are in fact the interim targets you guys are talking about. We'll provide a piece of information to the committee—
Okay. That leads me nicely on then to my next question, because I don't know where we're starting from. So, what are your current arrangements—? If we weren't putting a Bill forward at all, what are your current arrangements at the moment for reporting on progress towards air quality targets and also progress towards delivery of the current clean air plan?
So, we've been having a bit of a long conversation about this, haven't we? So, what we currently do is we report on, as Roger's just said—reports for Wales and the rest of the UK are published online and the UK Government publish them as well. We've got a clean air plan, which has a whole series of reported issues in it and we've just reviewed the national air quality strategy. So, there were reports in that on progress against the clean air plan. We have lots of statutory air quality monitoring networks in place, as we've just been discussing, haven't we? And we do some modelling to look at spatial coverage for this.
But, really, what this Bill is doing, Janet, is it's filling in the gaps we know exist as a result of that reporting. So, what we'll do is we'll signpost the committee to the various reports that are out there already and we'll do a piece of work. Olwen will send you a précis of what the platform is that we're doing the Bill off the basis of, and then you'll see as well that we're absolutely accepting that we don't have the Welsh-specific data that we need to be able to drive some of this stuff, and what this Bill is doing is setting out how we will do that. So, I don't think we're a million miles apart on what needs to be done.
And I assume you'll be giving a commitment to consult stakeholders before making regulation-setting targets.
Yes, of course. The Welsh Government has a statutory plan for consultation, and also we will—. We couldn't set the regulations without the consultation, because we need to consult with various technical bodies and health organisations, and so on, in order to be able to do it. It actually isn't physically possible to do the regulations without a consultation. We rely heavily on external stakeholder input and so on. And then also, of course, we'll consult the public, because we have a very active—. As you know from the cross-party groups, we have a very active public cohort of people with a great deal of expertise and evidence to give us, so, yes, of course we'll be doing that.
I assume you'll be giving equal weighting to public health and environmental benefits.
Yes. There are socioeconomic, environmental and health benefits associated with this, and they all have—. Well, it's a balance, isn't it, between what you're trying to do, and that's absolutely the space we're talking about, Janet, in terms of achievable. So, they have to be stretching, they have to be driving us in the right direction, but they also have to be things that people can live with and do. There's no point in suggesting things that mean that whole parts of the economy would have to close down. That's clearly not an appropriate thing to do. So, for example, if what we're talking about is investment by local authorities and so on, we would have to have a plan in order to enable the local authority to do the right investment and get the right suite of measures in place, so the regulations would have to take into account how they would be enforced and all that. So, I don't know, if the PM2.5 target is set in Cardiff then Cardiff Council is going to have to do a range of things necessary to get itself inside that target, and we would have to have had a long discussion with our council colleagues in particular, and health boards and others, about the activity they would have to take in order to get themselves to the targets. There's a lot of work to be done at the same time as we're collecting the data for what the targets should actually be.
Okay. And my final—
Janet, sorry. Excuse me; sorry, Janet. Both Jenny and Joyce have asked to just come in on this if you'll allow. Thank you. Jenny, first.
I think the anxiety coming from stakeholders is that because we're not meeting targets that have been set elsewhere already, they want to see an indication of seriousness of purpose. They have argued that the evidence is already there to set the target for PM2.5 now. So, I wondered if you were in a position to give any commitment as to the timeline for that, by way of signalling that we are serious about this, and whether you're currently in a position to bring forward an amendment on that.
A couple of complicated things there, Jenny. The Bill places additional reporting requirements on the Welsh Ministers, so we are putting ourselves under a duty to report on targets and whether they're met and what the process is. We are under a duty, under the Bill, assuming it goes through, to set a long-term target under section 1 or under section 2, a target for PM2.5, and a reporting date for any target that is set. And there are detailed provisions requiring us, on or before the reporting date, to put a statement before the Senedd stating whether or not the target is met, or if we haven't been able to determine whether the target is met, why not, and what steps we intend to take. So, it's quite an onerous reporting—rightly so—an onerous reporting requirement on us to do that and to lay it in front of the Senedd. It's not just publish it on a website. So, it's a very proactive step. And then we have a section that sets out provisions in relation to the review of targets, which set out new reporting duties for us, and then a five-yearly cycle of review.
I was very reluctant to set a date, because we wanted it to fit with the Senedd timetables, and we might want to move that around a little bit to make sure that—. It should really fall in the middle of a Senedd term, if you wanted to do it properly. It's likely that we'll set it first—. Well, I hope we'll be able to do something by the end of this Senedd term, but you might want to have an interim report halfway through the next Senedd term in order to get a cycle going, so I didn't want to be too specific. But we will be under a very specific duty to do that report. I mean, the committee might take a different view, and it will be interesting to see if you do, but I personally think that a reporting duty in the middle of the term, when whoever the Government is still has a chance to do something about it, is a very important thing. Reporting it five days before the election would clearly be much more problematic, right? I do think it matters where in the cycle it reports as well. So, we think we have struck in the Bill the right balance of reporting, both before the target is set, during the monitoring of the target, and then once we are saying whether we have or haven't met it, and I'm sure the committee will take a view on whether we've done that in the Bill or not.
So, in terms of whether we have the evidence now to set a target, my advice is that we do not. So, if the committee wants to write to me setting out reasons why it thinks we might have that evidence, I'd be more than happy to look at that, but my advice is that we do not have, currently, enough evidence to be able to definitively set it.
Thank you for that offer; I'm sure we'll take it up.
Do you want me to explain what we're doing?
Yes, so—. Chair, is there time for Roger to explain how we're doing that?
Very briefly, but then I want to bring Joyce in, and then return to Janet, please.
Okay, just very briefly, there's all sorts of data that we've got. We've got lots of measurement data of concentrations, but, clearly, what we're doing in order to set targets is a lot of modelling work and taking expert advice. So, we're sort of modelling potential future cross-sector emission scenarios for five-yearly dates into the future, to understand how that impacts on different concentration levels going into the future. And that will help inform a sort of cost-benefit analysis, and an understanding of inequalities—the effects of those scenarios on inequalities—and they will all form a sort of business case for change.
Thank you very much. Joyce.
That leads me on quite nicely, because I'm talking about futureproofing. So, we've heard 18 months, maybe five years, for things to bed in. In the meantime, what will be happening is you'll have planning applications in, and you'll have local development plans, regional development plans, national development plans, all coming in, and things that we now know exist—they're in situ—that have the potential—in some cases, we have the proof—to cause harm in terms of air quality, environmental pollution, et cetera, et cetera.
So, how joined up and futureproofed is this policy with those things that could be coming very quickly down the track, that we'll have to do some remedial action on after they've been built? And are you having a conversation with the Future Generations Commissioner for Wales, and links up to the Well-being of Future Generations (Wales) Act 2015 that we have no choice but to do?
So, just on the last one, Joyce, I actually met the future generations commissioner yesterday morning and had a very good conversation about how the offices will link up with some of the work that we're doing. We certainly will be doing that. Obviously, we do everything in the light of the requirements of the future generations Act.
In terms of planning arrangements and planning consents, I won't hide this from the committee at all: one of the deepest frustrations of my life is how long people can take advantage of a planning consent for. So, we still have houses being built in Wales to specifications that are no longer allowed, but the planning consent was started, and so they can finish it out, can take 10 years to do it. So, as long as you've started the planning consent in the time period allowed, then you only have to comply with the conditions that prevailed at that time. So, I have a bevy of people looking at how on earth we can do something about that, because it's extremely frustrating, and we still have houses being built to specs that would no longer get planning consent and so on, right across Wales. And I meet constantly with developers trying to enjoin them to do the right thing, to meet the current spec, and all the rest of it.
For an application going through now, it will have to comply with the current Welsh planning policy and all of the technical advice notes, and the environmental impact assessments and so on. There's nothing I can do about that. I can't retrospectively make the Bill have teeth; it's not possible to do that. And indeed, I'm very sorry to say that some of the things being built now will be in compliance with regimes that are perhaps 12 years old. So, if the committee has a brilliant way of stopping that happening, I'd be more than happy to look at it, but we have been—. Well, it's been one of the frustrations of my life that we haven't been able to try and do that. When we brought the last set of building regulations in, we did manage to shorten the time period in which they bid. So, I was quite pleased about that. But there's no doubt at all that that's a problem; there's no getting away from it.
We have strengthened the environmental considerations in all of our planning documents right across Wales, and we have reissued many of the technical advice notes and 'Planning Policy Wales' and 'Future Wales: The National Plan 2040', and we are currently working with the regional corporate joint committees across Wales on their strategic transport and planning plans in order to try and get them to futureproof them, and to try and get them to be in as best a state as we can. But I can't make the Bill retrospective, so it is what it is. So, I'm afraid that is absolutely the case, Joyce—it's the nature of the beast. But, as I say, if the committee can find any way at all to make that not happen, then I'd be more than happy to look at it.
Well, the roads review was an opportunity to put a stop to supporting environmentally damaging projects. For example, I remember a road outside Wrexham was cancelled because it was just adding rocket boosters to housing developments that should be located in the town, or city as it is now. So, that is a way in which you can influence future poor practice, can't you?
Sure. We do lots of things that influence it. What I can't do is say that any new development that's proposed for planning consent has to comply with the tenets of a Bill and its regulations that have yet to be passed. That's just not possible. So, we have plenty of environmental considerations in place now, but they won't be the ones that are in this Bill is the point I was making.
Diolch, Weinidog. Gaf i ddod â Delyth Jewell i mewn, os gwelwch yn dda, yn sydyn?
Thank you. May I bring in Delyth Jewell, please, quickly?
Diolch. Because of time, I won't ask a question to you, Minister, on this. I wonder, maybe, if, as a committee, we could give consideration to this and look into whether there are any precedents elsewhere in the world of how a challenge like this has had to be adapted, whether there's anything that we could recommend to the Government. But I won't put that to the Minister right now because of time.
I'd be really happy if you did that.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Janet, can I move on to you, please?
Yes. What avenue—and I think this is what we're all quite keen on—? I think we know already that—maybe not individuals, but sometimes individuals, but some industries—. We know that, sometimes, there is overpollution, and I suppose, with a law or legislation, you expect redress, in terms of legal regress. Once it becomes law, if the pollutant levels go above those, under the regulations and things, we'll be looking for consequences. So, what avenues of legal redress will be open or are open to individuals and organisations in the event of targets not being met and legal limits continuing to be exceeded?
So, there are three different bits of that, Janet. So, if the Government reports that we haven't met a target for that, then, obviously, all of the usual public challenges to a Government are open to the general public—so, by way of judicial review and various other things, right? So, all the public law remedies are available. If an individual polluter is found to be contributing to that in a way that breaches regulations, then there are obviously regulatory arrangements in place for NRW or others to prosecute the people who are doing that. So, one of the things the Government will be expected to do in saying whether the target has been met is to make sure that the regulatory framework, which makes sure that the polluter isn't polluting, is in place. So, one of the challenges to a Government is that your regulations are simply not fit for purpose and, therefore, this factory is allowed to pump out whatever it is and this regulatory framework that matches the targets isn't sufficient. So, part of the work we were talking about when I was discussing this earlier in this session is that, in setting the target, we have to make sure that the frameworks in order to achieve the target are also in place, so that NRW has the right set of teeth, if you like, to be able to take polluters to account, or highway authorities or local authorities have the right set of powers in order to be able to put in place the measures necessary to reduce the air pollution on a road or in whatever it is. So, that's the big piece of work that we have to do that goes alongside the target setting.
My nervousness is because, currently, if we have any major river pollution incidents in my constituency, I then, obviously, contact Welsh Water, who then say, 'Oh, right, we will report ourselves to the regulator, NRW', which I always do as well. But the time involved then for them even to get cracking on with seeking out where that pollution is coming from, who's responsible, it can take months. So, what assurances can you—
Yes, it's a criminal prosecution, Janet.
Well, I haven't seen very many of those when things have happened in my constituency. But how can we feel that it fits in terms of air pollution or sound pollution, and that it's going to be any quicker a process and more enforced, because currently, as I say, if we get river pollutions, it can take months?
It will take months, because it's a criminal prosecution—
Yes, but I've not seen any criminal prosecutions. It's about finding out how to stop that pollution—
I can provide the committee with a list of criminal prosecutions undertaken by NRW—
That would be really useful, actually.
Obviously, we're not seeking to dilute the tenets of the criminal law, so have to be able to collect the evidence to the correct level. You have to be able to conduct a criminal prosecution. People being prosecuted have the right to defend it and all the rest of it—
Of course, yes—
—so that whole process has to be in place.
If we could have the paper, would be really useful.
What we have to make sure is that the regulations under which the prosecutions occur are fit for purpose and match the targets that we've got, so that the pollution incident is one that would register as an offence. So, that's what I mean about this Bill being only one part of an enormous landscape of things that need to be in place for this to have teeth. This is not a catch-all Bill, so there's a whole series of other things around the regulatory powers of the regulators and so on that need to be in place in order to make this Bill—
—have any bite.
Thank you. We have a few minutes left. Huw, can I bring you in quickly?
It's a tiny follow-up on that that goes beyond the local incidents of air pollution and into the ability of a citizen to challenge the Government. This could go back to the earlier conversation as well about the multiple streams of work you've got going on on things like domestic burning and so on. It also touches on, of course, a potential environmental governance Bill, which we're expecting from the Senedd. What I'd like to ask, following on from Janet's question, is: what is there within this Bill that directly enables a citizen in Wales to challenge not just a local air pollution or soundscape incident, but, actually, to challenge the Government on failure systemically to—? If you like, a Heathrow Airport example on a UK basis where, under former EU legislation, a citizen could take the UK Government to court under EU legislation. Where are we in terms of this Bill, or does this Bill not fix that?
What this Bill does is it puts the Welsh Ministers under a set of duties to do various things, and gives them a set of powers. So, the challenge would be by way of a judicial review to say that the Welsh Government had either not correctly performed its duty, so it had made decisions that were outwith its duties, or it had not correctly exercised its powers.
Which does bring us back to what's on the face of the Bill and what are, to pick up Roger Herbert's point earlier on, statutory targets as opposed to discretionary targets.
Yes, so this places us under a duty to put in place a statutory target for the various things. Once the target's in place, it's a statutory target.
So, as the Bill is currently framed, what is your legal opinion of how a citizen would use this Bill and the targets, as they're currently framed, subject to anything that comes forward from this committee, to actually challenge the Welsh Government on any aspect of what's covered within this Bill?
Do you want to go?
I'm happy to join in. I think, as the Minister's said, what we've done with this Bill is build on existing powers in environmental law, in the Environment Act 1995 particularly, to create new duties around setting targets. In particular, the section 4 duty in the Bill that the Welsh Ministers must meet those targets—those targets must be met—that makes those targets much more meaningful and gives, as, again, the Minister has already referred to, the public the opportunity to challenge Government by way of judicial review under usual public law.
Is there anything that weakens this, in the post-EU landscape, within this Bill? Is there anything within this Bill that weakens the ability of a citizen to bring that challenge?
There's nothing that weakens it. It doesn't give specific rights to citizens to bring a challenge—
Does it enhance the ability of a citizen to bring a challenge?
No, it doesn't do anything one way or the other in my view. What do you think, Helen?
Only to the extent that by putting the Welsh Ministers under a duty to meet these targets, which we haven't had before, that gives the public a right to hold the Ministers to account.
But it doesn't give them a different right, Huw; it adds a duty to the list of things that the public would be able to challenge us for not having done. It doesn't give them a different challenge route, if that's what you're asking.
Diolch yn fawr iawn, pawb. Mi fyddwn ni'n cymryd egwyl fer rŵan am 10 munud. Byddwn ni'n ailddechrau am 10:40, felly mi fydd y darlledu'n dod i ben am 10 munud, a byddwn ni nôl er mwyn holi ymhellach. Diolch yn fawr iawn i bawb.
Thank you very much, everyone. We'll take a short break now for 10 minutes. We'll resume at 10:40, so the broadcast will stop for 10 minutes, but we'll be back for further questioning. Thank you very much.
Gohiriwyd y cyfarfod rhwng 10:30 a 10:45.
The meeting adjourned between 10:30 and 10:45.
Croeso nôl. Byddwn yn parhau gyda'n sesiwn dystiolaeth gyda'r Gweinidog Newid Hinsawdd ar Fil yr Amgylchedd (Ansawdd Aer a Seinweddau) (Cymru). Felly, gawn ni, os gwelwch yn dda, symud ymlaen, efo Joyce Watson i ofyn y cwestiwn cyntaf.
Welcome back. We'll continue with our evidence session with the Minister for Climate Change on the Environment (Air Quality and Soundscapes) (Wales) Bill. So, if we can move on, therefore, please, with Joyce Watson to ask the first question.
I want to ask about promoting awareness, and if you're going to consider extending the duty to promote awareness of air pollution beyond the Welsh Government and move it out into the wider public sector. That's been suggested to us by stakeholders.
Yes, thank you very much, Joyce. 'Absolutely' is the answer to that. Very much part of what we want to do is promote public awareness and public education, and a lot of this will not happen unless we get behaviour change. So, it's absolutely fundamental, as far as I'm concerned, to all of this piece of work that we have a very important public engagement, education and engagement process to take us along the road or we simply won't be able to do it.
Okay, that's good.
Thank you. Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gaf i symud ymlaen, os dŷch chi eisiau defnyddio'r offer cyfieithu, jest o ran strategaeth ansawdd aer genedlaethol? Fyddech chi'n gallu rhoi ymrwymiad, Weinidog, i ddarparu adroddiad cynnydd blynyddol ar y strategaeth ansawdd aer genedlaethol?
Thank you. Thank you very much. Could I move on, if you'd like to use the interpretation equipment, in terms of the national air quality strategy? Will you give a commitment, Minister, to provide an annual progress report on the national air quality strategy?
Yes. Very keen to have reporting arrangements in place, Cadeirydd, that give meaningful information to people about where we are and what the direction of travel is. We're very happy to have reporting arrangements in place that allow us to do that, and, as part of the earlier session, we agreed that we would supply the committee with what we currently have to do. As part of that, we'll provide the committee with what the current arrangements are and what this Bill is intended to enhance, and then the committee will be able to take a view about whether we need to include more in this Bill or not. Currently, we think we've got reporting arrangements in place across the clean air strategy piece.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Ydych chi wedi ystyried ei gwneud hi'n ofynnol i awdurdodau lleol ddatblygu strategaethau ansawdd aer lleol neu ranbarthol y tu allan i broses bresennol y cynllun gweithredu ansawdd aer, er mwyn hwyluso symudiad i ddull mwy rhagweithiol ac ataliol o reoli ansawdd aer?
Thank you very much. Have you considered requiring local authorities to develop air quality strategies at a local or regional level outside of the current air quality action plan process, to facilitate a more proactive and preventative approach to air quality management?
Yes, this is a very interesting question. It's part of the piece we were discussing earlier about the development plan cycle and the LDP cycle. They have a longer timescale than the proposed national air quality cycle, but we have a draft technical advice note 11 out at the moment as well, and 'Planning Policy Wales' and TAN 11 in combination should ensure a preventative approach to this by local authorities, and so we think that the combination of the national air quality strategy cycle and the development plan process cycle together will enable that, but they don't match, unfortunately, quite.
No, and, obviously, as you've mentioned, it relates then to the planning, because planning permission is based on LDPs and so on, so the cycles are important. Thank you very much. I'm going to move on to our next section, and bring in Huw, if I may, please.
Thanks very much, Chair. One of the criticisms we've heard of the current approach is that it focuses on hotspot areas of air quality. What does this Bill do to make it more comprehensive in the way it tackles air quality across all parts of Wales, including rural areas as well?
What we're going to have to try and do is, with the local air quality management support fund, get it to act rather better, really. We're going to have to fund some more data collection and air monitoring stations. As we've discussed often, what we've got at the moment is local authorities putting hotspot monitoring in place for various reasons, and this Bill is about strengthening both the monitoring and then the reaction to the monitoring, and in order to do that we will have to fund a better data collection and air quality monitoring system for Wales. We want to do that in a way that's scalable. There's just no getting away from the fact that we won't have enough money to put one on every street corner, and so on. So, to some extent, we will have to target where we're doing the air quality management, but we will want to use local authorities' local knowledge to be able to do that, so that we are picking up on those issues. But what we also want to do is make sure that it's scalable, so if there is more money to put into it, or we're having a particular issue in a particular area, we can scale up both the data collection and monitoring in that area. So, it's a bit more complicated than saying 'Yes, we're going to come from away from hotspots', but, yes, over time.
This links, of course, to the earlier discussion we had on where the duties lie and what we're actually monitoring as well, and what we want to set targets for, because, obviously, if you were to introduce other things, beyond what's described currently in the Bill, with a duty, then that would take us into things like ammonia, et cetera, and wider and resource-intensive implications for data collection. Does that send some fears down the line for you, then, in terms of local air quality management?
No. So, we're currently working with a couple of local authorities to test out various approaches for how would this work, basically, practically. I'm all about making it practical and enforceable, really. So, what we're doing is we're testing out various routes with a couple of local authorities, Huw, to just get an idea of the kind of practical reality of trying to do some of this, and then we'll be able to take a view about—
And when will we see any results of that work, do you know?
Well, we're in the process of doing it. I guess we can report it when we've got some meaningful data coming out. So, I don't exactly know, but I'm sure we can write to the committee and say when we expect that to be available.
That's great. Thank you.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. Gawn ni symud ymlaen at Joyce Watson, os gwelwch yn dda?
Thank you very much. We can move on to Joyce Watson.
Smoke control: can you outline why you have chosen not to include a White Paper proposal to mandate smoke control orders in all urban areas that meet specific criteria, and under what circumstance would you consider using powers of direction to compel a local authority to designate a smoke control area?
Yes, so this is very much part of the way that we work with our local authorities, Joyce. We very much work in partnership with the local authorities. We do actually have existing powers to direct local authorities to create a smoke control area, but I'd be most reluctant to do that, because what we want to do is work with the local authority to make sure that they develop a range of options. And we already briefly discussed this earlier, didn't we, Chair, that a big part of this is about education and sharing good practice, behavioural change and so on.
We have four existing smoke control areas across Wales. We are making some changes in this to make them more manageable. But we're not proposing to mandate that all local authorities have to have a smoke control area; that wouldn't be appropriate, in my view. There are backstop powers to direct it, but I would think the Government has failed if we've got to the point where we have to direct a local authority to do something. Normally, we would work with that local authority to come to a conclusion that an area of that sort is needed.
So, I'm fairly happy that we're in a good place on that, working with the local authorities, and I'd be reluctant to strengthen the duty of the Welsh Government to intervene in what I would consider to be a local decision-making process.
You've used the provisions for England in the Clean Air Act 1993, rather than develop a bespoke approach for Wales through this Bill in terms of smoke control provision. Could you give us the reason for that?
Yes. So, basically, there are differences, aren't there, for the way that Welsh communities work to the way that England works, and we don't think—. Sometimes, it's really great to be able to just mirror the provisions, and there's some merit in having a UK-wide provision for something. But in this case, we think it's really important to have provisions in place that suit particular communities, and particular communities in Wales will have very different reasons for having heating devices in their homes that are completely different, and so on. So, we just didn't think it was appropriate.
And then, as Roger was saying earlier actually, we want to work on a bespoke set of data and measures for Wales that suit Wales and enable us, I would suggest, to go much faster than across the border in some of these areas. So, we don't want to just mirror the provisions.
I'm going to move on now to trunk road charging schemes. We've had lots of evidence given to us, and one of those has been a call for the net proceeds from the charging schemes to only be used for policies to improve air quality, yet, the Bill doesn't actually, explicitly provide for that.
So, we expect any revenues from a road charging scheme to be used, in the broadest sense, to improve air quality. The difficulty with hypothecation is that it tends to be very narrow, and there's every possibility that there would be something that we wanted to do that then wouldn't fit within the hypothecation. So, if you hypothecate road charging schemes for air quality alone, for example, then an active travel scheme that does improve air quality but actually has major benefits for health and socioeconomic drivers, might fall outside the hypothecation, depending on how many elements of the scheme you could say were directed towards air quality, for example. And there are several other examples of that sort where you might want to do a scheme that has a range of benefits, one of which is air quality, and it might not fit inside a tight hypothecation. And we have that problem all the time where we have inflexible money that can't be used for a scheme that's only partially inside the hypothecation, for example.
So, there is an intent by the Government to use it for air quality, and I'm very happy to reiterate that as part of it, but I really do think that we need to be careful not to narrow it down to the point where only very specific schemes would be fundable and other schemes would not. So, I'm really sorry to say that, in Wales, we've had to knock down houses to improve air quality in one particular area. Well, you wouldn't be do that if you'd hypothecated something to air quality alone, even though that's what we were doing. So, I just feel it's important not to narrow it in to the point where we can't do innovative and creative things. But, we are absolutely saying that the air quality in the round would be part of what the road charging funding would be used for.
Thank you. Joyce, do you mind if Jenny comes in?
Can I just butt in to say: could it not say, 'the proceeds to improve air quality and the modal shift required to improve air quality'? Because the sorts of things you have in mind I'm sure relate to public transport.
Sure. For example, an active travel scheme is a very good example of this. So, if you were to put an active travel scheme in place, and the rationale for the active travel scheme had a range of things in it, one of which was air quality, one of which was modal shift, but one of which was health, one of which was a socioeconomic imperative to open up an access route to a school or whatever, then you'd end up in an argument, I can tell you, with the Treasury about what percentage of that scheme was fitted inside your hypothecation. So, I'd much prefer to be able to fund the entire scheme on the basis that it improves air quality than have an argument every time about what particular elements of it are what. I'm sorry, it's borne out of—you can hear the frustration, but hypothecation tends to have an invisible forcefield around it once it's in play.
Thank you. Joyce.
You previously told us, Minister, that the Bill doesn't include a requirement to consult before making a trunk road charging scheme, as you're already under a general duty to do so when making subordinate legislation. If that's the case, why are there other examples where an explicit consultation requirement is included in primary legislation, and that also includes Welsh legislation?
So, I'm sure the committee can do its own research in this, but I think specific consultation requirements are sometimes included in primary legislation where there are very specific groups that the primary legislation in question wishes to ensure are consulted. So, it's not a general consultation duty, it's a 'we very specifically want you to consult—I don't know—veterans or something'. So, what we're saying is that this is a general—I've lost the power speech. This is a general consultation duty, so, we don't think, in this instance, that there are very specific people who would need to be consulted, because the general consultation duty will pick up all of the elements of the public and the local authorities, and so on, who are the people who would need to be consulted for a trunk road scheme. So, that's, generally, the point of view of the Government, and I'm sure that we can all think of a couple of instances where we've put a specific one in, but mostly, they don't have them.
We've had evidence that charging schemes may not be effective in tackling vehicle emissions if non-compliant vehicles are displaced onto the local roads, and closer, therefore, to human habitation. What evidence have you considered to demonstrate that charging schemes are an effective measure to tackle air pollution?
Well, they can be an effective mechanism. What we're actually trying to do, as I'm sure Members have noticed, is that all over Wales, there are a number of measures across a number of roads, around variable speed controls, and so on, that are designed to reduce air pollution. We're much, much more inclined to continue with that kind of intervention. But, what we want to be able to ensure is that, if that is shown not to work, so if, after all of the interventions that you can think of, it's shown not to work, we could put a charging scheme in place if that was necessary. I think, Joyce, you'd have to do a very careful analysis of the travel patterns of people where a charging scheme was put in place so that you picked up the displacement point that you make, because that, obviously, is counterproductive. So, if you were going to put a charging scheme on a particular arterial route, you'd have to have a look at rat runs around it to see if they require to be included or to have different traffic management measures put on them to stop the displacement. So, it's not a simple thing to do at all, and we know from other intervention measures around Wales that displacement can be a real issue for people.
There's also a socioeconomic issue here. So, if a road charging scheme was put in place, I personally would want to be very sure that somebody who couldn't comply with the emissions standards of that could still get somewhere, that there was still a transport route for that person without having to incur that charge. I mean, no doubt it would take longer and so on, but there are some real just transition-type things to consider here as well. So, I think it's not something we're ruling out, but it's a last resort, in my view, and what we really need to do is make sure that we put a range of other measures in place that get that air quality to where it needs to be.
When we're talking about a just transition, part of that would be, in a built-up area—I'll use a built-up area, as you'll understand in a minute. You'd have to have the bus routes, alternative travel arrangements that satisfy the clean air and noise abatement before putting in a charging scheme. It's one of the concerns that have been raised with us. So, will that be part of your thinking?
Very much so. As I say, you'd have to do an extensive public consultation process for any charging scheme to be put in place. You'd have to do a full socioeconomic impact and environmental impact of that. You'd have to put a business case together for it. There'd be an awful lot of stages put in place before you got anywhere near an actual charging scheme, and one of those would definitely be the availability of alternative transport, like public transport or other modes of transport, what the need for travelling for work is, what the community impact would be, what the ability of people to get to family, friends, or other communities activities would be—there's a huge raft of things that would have to be looked at. And I think it is really a last resort. This would be in a situation where everything else had been tried and we still could not get the air quality down to where it needed to be. So, what you're trying to do is literally drive people off the road at that point by making it more expensive to use that form of transport. So, it really is a last resort. However, I think it's a necessary last resort, not least because I think people should be aware that, if we aren't able to get compliance with the other measures, it might be necessary to do it, so there is a stick part of it in here as well, but we want to put a lot of carrots in place so that people understand the effect of their behaviour.
Thank you. I know Jenny wants to come in briefly.
Clearly, we want to put the carrot before the stick, but this Bill only mentions trunk road charging, and I wondered if you could clarify what are the powers of local authorities to do charging, in line with everything you've just said. Because at the moment, they're saying, 'We haven't got the powers to do it. It will take five years', and I wondered, do local authorities have the powers to ensure we don't have perverse consequences of trunk road limitation?
As I understand it, local authorities already have—. We're doing it for trunk roads because the Welsh Government doesn't have the power at the moment, and we're the trunk road agency. Local authorities do have the power to put road charging schemes in place. There are a number of hoops that they have to jump through in order to do that, obviously, including all of the things I've just mentioned, but, as I understand it—and I stand to be corrected by anyone here, or whatever—local authorities can put congestion or emissions charging in place, for example, and a number of local authorities across Britain have done that. But they have to jump through all of the hoops I've just mentioned in order to do it.
Huw just wanted to jump in.
Thank you. A short supplementary to Jenny's point there. We are unique now, in England and Wales, at having no congestion charging, no ultra low emission zone, et cetera, et cetera, despite some of the standout congestion that we have in some of our major urban areas. So, my question is: would the powers that you're seeking within here, which are very focused on air quality on trunk roads—? Do you see them being able to be used in conjunction with a local authority, or local authorities, on a regional footprint, bringing forward their own proposals on a ULEZ or a congestion charge as well? Do you see these being used hand in hand, potentially, in the future?
'Definitely' is the answer to that. We'd never do anything like this without having consulted the relevant local authorities. All the trunk roads go through a local authority area—
But, as you've made clear, this is for air quality purposes on trunk roads only. I guess what I'm saying is, to be explicit: do you foresee a situation where the Welsh Government sits with local authority leaders and says, 'Well, actually, you're trying to do this for these reasons; we're trying to do this on this trunk road, we don't want the unintended consequences', as Joyce was saying, 'of squeezing off into other areas, so let's work together, we'll use the powers in this Bill along with the powers of local authorities'?
Yes, 'definitely' is the answer to that. And, further to that, in doing the regional planning and regional transport plans that the CJCs now have to do, we expect them to take into account our plans and their own plans for this kind of regional infrastructure planning. So, we don't expect a city centre local authority to do something without having taken into account the hinterland authorities that serve it, for all kinds of obvious reasons. So, that's why it's not straightforward to do. The most famous one is London, isn't it—if you think about the liaison that went on between the Mayor of London and all of the London boroughs that are included in that, that went on for a long time for obvious reasons, because all of them have to be bought into the scheme in order to make it work, and that would be absolutely the case here as well.
Thank you. Joyce, do you have any further questions here? Thank you very much. Can we just move on, then? Jenny, if you can take us to the next section.
Stationary idling offences I regard as in the same category as chucking litter out of the window of your car in order to tidy it up. They should be never events, in any case, particularly outside schools and hospitals. What discussions have you had with local authorities on the additional resource required for enforcement action, when they already have powers to do this now?
There are two things here. First of all, the current penalties are too low, in our view, and aren't necessarily acting as a disincentive for this. But also, there's a big education piece here as well, and it's about the how the enforcement might take place. They do absolutely have powers to take action already, but what this will do is give a range of penalties that can be imposed, and put guidance in place for local authorities. The local authority, then, itself can decide what it needs to do in particular areas of itself, in order to get this down. Idling isn't necessarily a problem everywhere, although it's about trying to get the education piece that, actually, it's cheaper for you if you shut your engine off and then turn it on again. Because it's a massive myth that it takes more petrol to do that. Most modern cars do that automatically. But if you do have an older car, then understanding that turning your engine off and turning it on again isn't going to result in a high a fuel bill, for example, is really important. But we know that idling outside schools, particularly for very high-polluting vehicles, is a real problem in air quality terms, and around vulnerable groups—so, hospitals and care homes and other areas. A local authority will take a differential view, depending on the local authority and the placing of its school and its road system, and all the rest of it, around how much enforcement it wants to do. But we do expect the education piece to be very much part of this.
If I can just put it this way, Jenny, we can't do anything by just enforcement. We need to make it socially unacceptable to do this, and that's what works more than anything else—so, making sure that children understand that, if their parents have left their engine running, they're actually actively affecting the air quality around a school. There's nothing, in my opinion, quite more behaviour changing than your kid giving you absolute grief about the fact that you're not doing something the way that their friends think that it should be done. I do think that, for people who don't understand, an education piece, to make them understand and behave differently, is really important. And then, if there are people who are just deliberately doing it, a set of penalties that increase in a way that's actually a deterrent is necessary, isn't it? So, our view is that, like all of these measures we've seen across Wales, in a range of behaviour change modes, there will be a spike in having to do it, and then very much a drop-off, as people actually just get used to that behaviour and don't do it any more. So, we've got a range of things that we've done across Wales on this—from the plastic bag charge, for example, on—where there's a peak in having to put some energy and effort into it, and then it just drops off into business as usual as behaviour change embeds in our psyche. So, we expect that pattern to happen here.
Okay. Because in my experience, children absolutely understand the importance of this, but their parents and other adults are not listening to them. So, would you envisage that this could give the powers to members of staff in a school to both warn and then, if the warning's not heeded, to—
We're leaving it to the local authority who they authorise to be able to institute the penalty. So, there will be a provision to allow the local authority to give the power to any one of its employees—it doesn't have to be the traffic enforcement officer; it can be anybody you like, really. Different local authorities will have a different view of that, and they'll have a different setup for how that might work. So, yes, Jenny, each local authority will be able to make that decision under its own bat.
But again, we're not anticipating huge numbers of people having to be fined; we're anticipating an awareness campaign of the fact that the fine could be there, and then an education piece. And just to say, we can't say what the range is at the moment, Chair, because we're going to consult on the regulations. One of the consultations on the regulations will be what should the range of penalties be. So, we're not in a position yet, as I understand it, to say what the range should be—only that we think it should be greater than it is at the moment.
Thank you for that clarification.
Thank you. Huw.
This is an 'Is it just me?' question: what is idling? Is it when a school bus driver parks outside, discharges the whole of their cohort and it takes five minutes? Or is it when a parent is sitting outside on a cold winter's day for 15 minutes, engine running? Or is it both?
Both of those.
It's both. Right. Thank you. I thought it was just—. Okay. Is that set out in the related legislation?
If you stop, and your engine is running, you're idling.
You stop, and your engine is running.
If you're stationary, and your engine is on, you're idling.
When you're stationary—that is idling. Right. Thank you.
Diolch. Are you happy for us to move on?
Gaf i droi rŵan at Delyth Jewell, os gwelwch yn dda?
May I turn now to Delyth Jewell, please?
Diolch, Cadeirydd. Turning then to the other element of this legislation, the soundscapes element, that concept of soundscapes will be new or alien to lots of people—practitioners but also, particularly, members of the public. There isn't a definition on the face of the Bill about what a soundscape is. Could you talk us through, please, whether you've considered either signposting to the definition that's used by the Government within the explanatory memorandum, or including on the face of the Bill regulation-making powers for the Government, for Ministers, to update any definition when it's needed? Could you talk us through that?
Yes, absolutely, Delyth. We're going to have a noise and soundscape plan, and we'll consult on that as part of the strategy. We'll be doing that before the summer recess. That will have the international standard definition inside it. We haven't deliberately omitted it from the explanatory memorandum, and if the committee wants us to put it in, we have no big problem with that, if you want us to do it. But we're going to have a noise and soundscape plan, and we'd like the ability to be able to update the definition in accordance with—. I'm always very reluctant to put a very definitive definition on the primary legislation, especially as it's so new, because if it changes we don't want to have to amend the Bill. But we're happy to put it into the explanatory memorandum, and it will be included in the noise and soundscape plan. And then as that plan is reviewed, obviously, the definition may—well, I imagine it will, actually—evolve. Because it's a new thing, isn't it, that we're doing. So, we're happy to add it into the explanatory memorandum if that's what you'd like, but I'd be much more reluctant to actually include the definition on the face of the Bill, for that reason.
Thank you, Minister. That makes sense. I think that this links in in part with the questions that Joyce had asked, and I think Huw as well, earlier about promoting awareness. As you say, because it's this new concept, perhaps we could write to you about that. I appreciate what you've just said. The noise and soundscapes plan that you're talking about—that links in with some of the evidence that we've received, which is actually fascinating. I think it was in the last evidence session we had with the Institute of Acoustics, and they were pointing out that, when we talk about soundscapes, there are two distinct things, because it's the element of tackling noise and it's also promoting—as I think he said—'euphonics', the idea of pleasant sounds like birdsong, and how important that is to people's well-being. I'm encouraged by that fact that you're talking about a noise and soundscapes plan—that it's setting the two things apart as distinct issues. Is it going to be tackling the one and promoting the other in equal measure? Is that the idea?
Yes, it is. We're going to be going out to consultation, so we're imagining we'll get quite a lot of responses about that, but there's an enormous emerging body of evidence about the benefits to mental health of natural sounds—birdsong and so on. So, what we're trying to achieve is a balance between man-made noise, if I could put it that way, human noise, and natural noise, and giving everyone the opportunity to have the right balance of that. We all know, and I certainly know from personal experience, that if you do live near something very, very noisy, it has a very detrimental effect overall on your health. We know that some people in Wales live with constant road noise, for example, which is really detrimental. I've visited communities with real road noise problems. So, what this is is a first step towards being able to address some of the those issues for those communities, and I think it's a much-needed step. So, the consultation will give the opportunity to people to tell us what they think it should include, and how we should take advice. I'm going to anticipate your next question: and one of the things we'll be looking at is whether we need an advisory panel or not for that. I want the consultation to tell us what the wide view of whether we need an advisory panel or not is, and if the view is that we do need an advisory panel, then we're very happy to have an advisory panel. But we're intending to have a consultation before summer recess, which will flush out some of this stuff.
Thank you. May I bring in Jenny?
Of course. I was about to say that, actually, there was a question that Jenny had asked about this.
I just want to understand the interface with planning regulations, because regulatory services are thin on the ground. In urban areas like my constituency and yours, where you've got commercial operations operating side by side with areas where people are living, will this strengthen or encourage regulatory services to pay more attention to out-of-date, very noisy air conditioning fans in takeaway operations, and obviously the nightclub fallout from the pub, and all that sort of thing?
It's a first step on a journey. Again, I don't want to leave anyone in Wales under the illusion that, as soon as this Bill gets Royal Assent, we'll be able to do something about very noisy air conditioning fans opposite. But over the course of the five-year plan, we would want to work with local authorities to build the expertise and the practitioner ability to do that so that, in a second iteration of the plan, we would be looking for a much more ambitious, enforceable set of noise and sound levels. This is the first step on that journey. So, at some point, a Minister will be sitting here and a committee will be sitting there, and they'll be talking about what level of decibels will be acceptable. But we're not there yet; we're in a preliminary setting-out of the landscape, the direction of travel and how we will get from here to there. I'm really pleased to be here and it's very groundbreaking, but we're certainly not yet at the point where an environmental health officer is going to go out. Well, to back up a bit, there are actually regulations now about decibel levels, but they're probably not adequate for much of what you're talking about, Jenny, although they do exist for very severe sound. But, yes, we will have to work with local authorities on a range of practitioner skills, understanding the resources issue and then understanding what an enforcible regime might look like.
Thank you. Delyth.
Thank you. Finally from me, when we took evidence from the Institute of Acoustics, much like you were saying about wanting to get to a point where we'd be talking about what the acceptable level of decibels would be, or something like that, they suggested that the national soundscape strategy should include targets relating to the reduction in noise pollution mirroring the provisions for air pollution, and there being targets for that. What would be your reaction to that, please? Considering we've just been talking about not just noise pollution, but promoting euphonics, is there an equivalent way in which it isn't just, 'This is the unacceptable level of this', but that people should have access to a certain amount of—however we can measure it—joy? During the pandemic, we spoke so much about how, if you had access to green and blue spaces, it lifted your mood. Surely, there must be research somewhere saying that if you have access to places where you hear birdsong—. So, is that something that we could work towards, as well?
I think it absolutely is. There's no doubt at all that mental health is very beneficially affected by access to nature, natural sounds and so on. We know that just access to small green spaces or tiny forests, or anything else, makes a real difference to people, and it definitely does do that. The difficulty we have at the moment is we have no way to measure any of that, and it's quite subjective as well. Also, it depends on a large number of other things—a well-designed house on a less busy road won't have any noise in it, a very well designed house in the middle of a city centre won't have much noise in it, a poorly designed house on a not very busy road might have a lot. There are quite a lot of other moving parts in this. So, that's why I say that this is a sort of prelimiary 'what do we actually want?', a kind of consultation, and then a plan to get to being able to set proper targets in place.
There are other Bills in the offing, as well. Access to nature is one of the big issues, I think. There are lots of issues there—access to green space, and so on. So, this Bill isn't a catch-all, as I keep saying. But I think this is a great first step along a route to a Wales where you might well be able to have some entitlements to various things, but I think we're a long way off being able to put that in place right now.
Diolch, Weinidog. Huw and Jenny have indicated that they'd just like to ask two short questions.
In some ways, this is most exciting, but also we're right at the edges of understanding on this, including the professionals in the field, as well. But it does strike me that there is sometimes a desire to seek out noisy, colourful, lively environments, as well. Much as I love sitting in my back garden, I also love coming to Cardiff on a match day and hearing all the noise and activity, and so on. It must be a pain for those residents who can't escape Cardiff on those days. So, I think the advisory panel is an interesting proposal here, because one of the things we might be touching on, Minister, I suspect, as you take this forward, is not simply what you do in your domestic circumstances, but, just as we did with the George V playing fields and so on, the ability for people in an urban environment to escape to green places where there is a quiet ambience and to have the ability to reflect and not be disturbed, as well as to enjoy the busy, built-up, urban environment. There's something in it that's not just individual within the way we take this forward, but collective, so that every community has a normative expectation about where they can enjoy quiet, enjoyable times, as well as the fiestas, the carnivals and everything else going on.
I completely agree with all of that and, as I said before, much of this is subjective and you experience it subjectively. Also, ambient noise is an interesting issue here. I live in a very quiet village—even though I represent the centre of Swansea, I live right on the edge of Swansea in a quiet village—so if somebody is playing a radio in their garden, you can hear it all over the village. The decibel level might be quite low, but it's quite intrusive. If you play your radio in a garden where my parents lived in Swansea, you can't hear it at all because the ambient noise is higher than it.
The ambient hum of jacuzzis—[Inaudible.]
Well, you know, there's—. So, the point is that it's subjective, isn't it? I don't know if the committee knows this, but I have appalling taste in music, so I like something called death metal—
—and quite a lot of people think that's awful. [Laughter.] So, it's very subjective, you know? It's very subjective. So, trying to get that—. I don't like it all the time, you know, it's just—[Laughter.] But sometimes I like it. And that's also the point, isn't it? You don't like it all the time. We all know what we like sometimes and we—. So, it's quite difficult to do. So, getting to a point where you can have a set of rules in place that take into account some of that subjective stuff and what the ambient noise was already, and all those kinds of things, and what the expectation of a rural soundscape or an urban or peri-urban soundscape is, and so on, those are quite complicated things to do, aren't they?
I'll just give you the example that I'm very well aware of in planning. So, if you're a professional musician, you're going to practice your music for six, eight hours a day. If you live next door to that person, that will drive you around the bend. So, how on earth do you marry those two things together? The musician has to be able to practise their craft, and we are all very appreciative of musicians when they've practised, but at the same time, living next door to somebody who is playing the same piece of music over and over again for eight hours is not a great thing to experience. So, balance is what this is about, isn't it? It's about balance and how do you find the balance for those things. That's not an easy thing to do. So, that's what the plan is about, it's what the consultation is about, and trying to find a consensus for how do we get that balance is where we're at.
Thank you. Jenny, do you have a final question for the Minister?
Yes, I just wanted to—. As we've got two minutes of your time, I just want to go back to the whole target-setting business. One of our witnesses said that there is a danger and that we need to avoid 'paralysis by analysis'. I just wondered what your take is on how we do that and actually take the bold decisions that we need to take.
Absolutely, and all of the usual stuff that we shouldn't let the excellent get in the way of the good, and all that kind of stuff. So, I agree with that.
We've just had a brief conversation with the Chair at the intermission, or whatever it is we call the break in the middle, and I think what we're offering is a technical brief for the committee on what we've got in place now and how we propose to build off it. Because this isn't intended to do everything, so I think for the committee to fully understand quite what the current landscape looks like, and then if you want to put forward amendments or proposals of that sort, to understand how that works inside the landscape, because I'm really keen for the committee to do that. But we need for them to be practical for all the reasons we've set out. I've checked with the officials and they're all very happy to put a technical session of that sort on, so, Chair, we'll organise that. I think that will answer some of those questions.
Diolch yn fawr iawn. And we're very grateful for that offer and we'll be saying, 'Yes, please.' Thank you very much. Can I please thank you, Minister, for your time this morning and also your officials? That brings to an end our evidence session.
Members, can I just move on to item 4, please, and papers to note? Can we note papers 4.1 to 4.6 in today's pack? Any comments anybody wishes to make on the public record in relation to any? No.
bod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu gwahardd y cyhoedd o weddill y cyfarfod yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42(vi) a (ix).
that the committee resolves to exclude the public from the remainder of the meeting in accordance with Standing Order 17.42(vi) and (ix).
Cynigiwyd y cynnig.
Gaf i gynnig, felly, yn unol â Rheol Sefydlog 17.42 fod y pwyllgor yn penderfynu cwrdd yn breifat ar gyfer gweddill y cyfarfod? A yw'r holl Aelodau yn fodlon? Ydyn. Diolch. Byddwn ni rŵan yn symud i'r sesiwn breifat. Mi fydd y cyfarfod nesaf yn cael ei gynnal ar 8 Mehefin.
May I propose, therefore, in accordance with Standing Order 17.42 that the committee resolves to meet in private for the remainder of the meeting? Are all Members content? Yes. Thank you. We will now move to private session. The next meeting will be held on 8 June.
Derbyniwyd y cynnig.
Daeth rhan gyhoeddus y cyfarfod i ben am 11:29.
The public part of the meeting ended at 11:29.